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U.S. Supreme Court

National Labor Relations Board v. Brown, 380 U.S. 278 (1965)

National Labor Relations Board v. Brown

No. 7

Argued January 19, 1965

Decided March 29, 1965

380 U.S. 278


Respondents were members of a multiemployer bargaining group with a history of successful bargaining. After the union struck another member of the group, which continued operations using temporary replacements, respondents locked out their employees and utilized temporary replacements to continue business operations. The National Labor Relations Board found that, while the use of temporary replacements by the struck employer was lawful, the lockout of regular employees and their temporary replacement by respondents violated §§ 8(a)(1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act. The Court of Appeals disagreed, and refused to enforce the Board's order.


1. Although the Board need not inquire into employer motivation to support a finding of an unfair labor practice where the employer's conduct is demonstrably destructive of employee rights and is not justified by the service of significant or important business ends, respondents' lockout and subsequent operations with temporary help in the face of the struck employer's continued operations during the whipsaw strike do not constitute such conduct. Pp. 380 U. S. 282-286.

(a) Since the struck employer continued to operate, respondents might reasonably have been concerned that the integrity of the employer group was threatened unless they managed to stay open during the lockout. P. 380 U. S. 284.

(b) Respondents' continued operations with the use of temporary employees after the lockout was wholly consistent with a legitimate business purpose. P. 380 U. S. 285.

(c) Respondents' use of temporary replacements, rather than some of their regular employees, does not justify an inference of hostile motivation; to limit the respondents to the use of regular employees under the circumstances here present would be to render largely illusory the right of lockout recognized by Labor Board v. Truck Drivers Union, 353 U. S. 87. P. 380 U. S. 285.

Page 380 U. S. 279

(d) Absent evidentiary findings of hostile motive, there is no support for a conclusion that respondents violated § 8(a)(1) of the Act. P. 380 U. S. 286.

2. Indispensable to a violation of § 8(a)(3) is a determination that the employer's actions were motivated by an unlawful intent, and while no specific evidence of this unlawful intent is necessary when an employer practice is inherently destructive of employee rights and is not justified by legitimate business reasons, where, as here, the tendency to discourage membership is comparatively slight, and the employer's conduct is reasonably adapted to achieve legitimate business ends, the improper intent of the employer must be established by independent evidence. Not only is the record devoid of any evidence that respondents acted with an improper intent, but it contains positive evidence of their good faith. Pp. 380 U. S. 286-290.

3. While courts should be slow to overturn an administrative decision, they are not left to sheer acceptance of the Board's conclusions, and must set aside a Board decision which rests on an erroneous legal foundation. Pp. 380 U. S. 290-292.

319 F.2d 7, affirmed.

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